International Literacy Day 2012: literacy is a human right and the foundation of all learning

Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.

poster for International Literacy DayOttawa (07 Sept. 2012) - Literacy and Peace is the theme of this year's International Literacy Day. Adopted by the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD), it demonstrates the multiple uses and value that literacy brings to people. For over 40 years the United Nations Education, Scientific and Culteral Organization (UNESCO) has been celebrating International Literacy Day by reminding the international community that literacy is a human right and the foundation of all learning. 

Internationally, literacy contributes to peace as it brings people closer to attaining individual freedoms and better understanding the world, as well as preventing or resolving conflict. The connection between literacy and peace can be seen by the fact that in unstable democracies or in conflict-affected countries it is harder to establish or sustain a literate environment.

Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.

A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing development.

Right here at home, we need to continue to ensure everyone has the opportunity, services and support to become literate. The ABC LifeLiteracy reports that:

  • approximately 72 per cent of Canadians below Level 3 are employed (International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS), 2003).
  • approximately 53 per cent of unemployed Canadians have scores below Level 3. Lower-skilled adults tend to work fewer weeks, experience more and longer periods of unemployment, and earn lower wages when they are working (International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS), 2003).
  • 972,000 Canadians are at Level 1, and 1.6 million at Level 2, who are either unemployed or employed but earning a low income (International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey (IALSS), 2003).
  • workers with higher literacy skills earn more income, are less likely to be unemployed, experience shorter periods of unemployment, and are more likely to find full-time rather than part-time work (International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey, Statistics Canada, OECD, 2005).

Many of the public services and charities that have come under attack by the Harper Conservative government are the very programs and workers who assist Canadians and newcomers to achieve greater literacy. We need to continue the fight to protect these services because as a society we all win when literacy is achieved.

What can you do?

There are many things you can do support a strong literacy. Here are several suggestions:

  • encourage reading - at home and at work. Keep it simple. It doesn't need to be a novel, it can be a newspaper, magazine or website/blog;
  • avoid using acronyms or create a document at work to help people navigate them. Using such code is confusing and intimidating for others;
  • when looking for work, take your resume to an employment centre to help with writing your cover letter and resume;
  • learn how to use a new machine or program;
  • become a literacy volunteer - in your community, a school or at work; and
  • speak up when you hear about proposals that will hurt literacy programs and funding.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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